Why We Can’t Do It All and How to Deal With That


Why We Can’t Do It All and How to Deal With That

If you struggle to balance work, family, and social commitments, consider this: Many of the conventions around work that exist today were not designed for life as it exists today.

Let’s start with a quick recap of the last 100 years or so: The Industrial Revolution introduced the concept of a timed working day. This ultimately became the 40-hour work week we know today (a victory for exhausted factory workers that is still celebrated on 1 May in many countries around the world). Fast forward to the post-World War II era and the concept of the man as the main breadwinner became established. Unmarried women could be employed in lesser occupations regarded as “women’s work” but were often let go when they got married or became pregnant, as it was believed their primary responsibilities lay in the home.

Against this backdrop, work as we know it evolved, bringing with it the challenge of trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance. There are four areas where a work/life balance has become difficult to maintain, however, Duncan Woods, Human Performance Coach and executive coaching consultant to digital wellbeing platform, soSerene, provides insights as to how we can look at getting the balance back.

1. Tradition vs Modern Life

Many of the values and traditions that modern workers take for granted evolved at a time when adults were expected to be in heterosexual marriages in which responsibilities were divided. "Historically, there was little gender balance – during the working week anyway – as one parent took care of all the family and home responsibilities, and the other brought home the pay cheque, simple as that,” says Woods.

Today, the picture is rather different. Single-parent households are common and even where there are two partners, most households need multiple income streams. However, Woods still sees many of his female clients doing the child-rearing. “Female executives who are mothers are still stretched a lot and of all the groups [that Woods works with], they probably need the most support. Extreme expectations placed on them – often by themselves – still persist. I think dads have stepped up their support a lot, but they still have plenty ‘house-training' to do,” says Woods.

Balancing Acts: We need to reassess what constitutes “work” and divvy up the responsibilities more equitably. "Previously the field of play was clear, but ‘work’ is no longer demarcated as leaving home with a packed lunch to clock-in to nine-to-five. It has all become a bit of a blend,” says Woods. “The partner who does the online grocery shopping is as important to a functioning family unit as the partner who is making the big moonshot sales pitch (and is often the same person).”

2. Thinking Beyond Hustle Culture

One good thing to have come out of the pandemic is an increased focus on work/life balance, which had already been emerging as an antidote to hustle culture, but gained traction as office workers rediscovered the simple pleasure of spending more time with their families.    

“We have come a long way in the last decade in this area,” says Woods. “In the first part of my career, I found there was a definite culture of being applauded for having a single-minded work focus. The 'race towards burnout' was celebrated and voluntarily contested – as mad as that seems!”

However, while the situation has improved, Woods believes we’re still not getting the balance right. "The balance has really improved from a physical perspective – people are working from home more, attending more kids’ concerts and sports games etc, which is wonderful to see. However, we are really being challenged from an attention perspective, which is the next frontier to conquer. This struggle is real, because digital integration brings work into every physical environment we enter, so managing ourselves in an environment without clear rules and boundaries is very challenging.”

Balancing Acts: Woods recommends erecting guardrails at several key-points in the day to entrench good habits. These should include a ritual around how the day starts, mental and physical pauses during the day and ending the day in a way that brings closure.

3. Creating an Environment for Success

It’s a situation that’s all too familiar: We try to do everything, and in the end, we’re stretched so thin that nothing gets done. "We have to be very careful to set ourselves up to succeed and thrive, rather than get into a cycle of struggle and feel like failures,” says Woods. “We all have a legitimate right to thrive rather than just endure life.”

Balancing Acts: One way to exit this cycle is to detail clearly what holistic success and failure look like on your terms, says Woods. “Being wildly successful at work, but with crumbling personal relationships at home, for example, may not feel like success at all.” Once you have a clear vision of what you’re aiming for, it’s easier to work towards it. He also stresses the importance of prioritising wellbeing exercises as part of your personal “key performance areas”. Whether it’s quality time with a good book, watching sport or taking to the field yourself, wellbeing exercises will look different for everyone, but, Woods says you need to be an integral part of your own rescue effort!

4. Time Is Wellbeing

"The people with the best balance seem to be those who value their time – both in putting in a quality shift at work, but also in making time for the things that are important to them,” says Woods.

Balancing Acts: Woods recommends figuring out where your "non-negotiables" lie and making time, space and attention available for those. “Don’t negotiate on non-negotiables!” Woods cautions. “Work on the high-performance skill of delivering the 'discerning NO' – valuing your own skills, time and energy so that everyone gets your best, not a thinly sliced version of you. When we value the best version of ourselves, everyone wins. When we allow a lesser version of ourselves, everyone loses.”

Article Courtesy of www.mantiscomms.co.za 



soSerene is a wellbeing management system (WMS) for companies, communities and individuals that helps integrate healthy living into busy modern lives, with a special focus on supporting mental health. It offers a holistic solution for companies and organisations looking to provide accessible healthy lifestyle tools to their busy staff, customers and community members. soSerene offers wellbeing across three primary pillars:

  • Calm: Mental health and mindset guidance to regulate stress, improve clarity, optimism and purpose.
  • Move: On-demand workouts for all fitness levels and body types, including high-intensity interval training, mobility & flow, low impact and reduced intensity workouts.
  • Nourish: Enjoyment-led food recipes that balance personal needs and preferences.

Visit www.soserene.com for further information.


Mantis Communications

Kerry Simpson

Tel: 079 438 3252

Email: kerry@mantiscomms.co.za